Border Run Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong

Knowing where the closest border crossing is a hot topic among tourists and expats who want to stay a little longer in Thailand. Those who are interested in doing a border run from Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, or other large towns in Northern Thailand often go to the land crossings at Mae Sai – Tachileik, Myanmar or Nong Khai – Vientiane, Laos. But the land crossing at Chiang Khong – Huay Xai, Laos was quick and painless and our favorite of the three options.

Border Run: Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong-Huay Xai

Many people cross from Chiang Khong, Thailand to Huay Xai, Laos (pronounced hoo-eye sai) when traveling one-way from Northern Thailand to Luang Prabang, a popular UNESCO World Heritage Site. However, tourists and expats can also use this spot for border runs: to leave Thailand, hop over to a neighboring country, and come back into Thailand to extend their stay.

SNAPSHOT
Click the links below to instantly jump to different sections within this post

Being aware of the border run to Chiang Khong is important because there was a time that the nearby Mae Sai border crossing heavily restricted people who could use it. Border officials only allowed people with Multiple Entry Thai Visas (Tourist and Non Immigrant) to re-enter Thailand. It used to be that you were SOL if you wanted a Visa Exempt Stamp or a Visa on Arrival.

Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border crossing allows people to leave and re-enter Thailand who are activating a new entry on their Multiple Entry Visa, applying for a Visa On Arrival, and eligible for a Visa Exempt Stamp.

Who can do a border run to Chiang Khong?

Not everyone can do a border run between Chiang Khong, Thailand and Huay Xai, Laos. It depends on your citizenship.

Tourists and expats who can use the Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border crossing (to enter Laos and return to Thailand), must:

1.  Be eligible to receive a Laos Visa On Arrival (click the link to see the eligible 150 countries)

AND be able to

2a.  Either activate the next entry on their unexpired Thai Multiple Entry Tourist Visa (METV) or a Thai Multiple Entry Non Immigrant Visa
2b.  OR receive a Thai Visa Exempt Stamp (55 countries) or a Thai Visa On Arrival (21 countries).

As of January 2017, all Thai Visa Exempt Stamp recipients will receive a 30-day stamp. Thailand’s immigration checkpoints no longer issue 15-day Visa Exempt Stamps, although this could change in the future.

When crossing ‘by land’, you can only receive two 30-day Visa Exempt Stamps per calendar year. Traveling across the Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border crossing is considered ‘by land.’

There is not a specific maximum number of times visitors can get a 30-day Visa Exempt Stamp at an airport (‘by air’). However, immigration officials may start to question your motives after you’ve received several in a row.

Chiang Khong-Huay Xai is a border run, NOT a visa run.

The Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border crossing is the place to go for a border run and not a visa run.

Chiang Khong Immigration Checkpoint

What’s the difference?

A border run (or ‘border bounce’) is, quite literally, a run to the border. Cross it and then re-enter Thailand. You are not required to stay in another country for any minimum length of time, so you can turn around and immediately come back into Thailand on your Thai visa’s next entry, a Visa On Arrival, or a Visa Exempt Stamp.

A visa run is more complex. It requires that you buy a Thai Visa (Tourist or Non Immigrant) from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate-General. Since it takes a minimum of 24 hours to process a visa, you’ll have to spend at least one night in another country.

NOTE: The Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border crossing is not the place to apply for a visa because there is no Royal Thai Embassy or Royal Thai Consulate in Huay Xai, Laos. If you need to apply for a Thai Tourist Visa or a Thai Non Immigrant Visa (Education, Business, Retirement, etc) in Laos, you must go to the Royal Thai Embassy in Vientiane or the Royal Thai Consulate-General in Savannakhet.

Application Requirements: What to Bring

Going on a border run is a two-step process. You’ll need one set of documents to get into Laos and another set of documents to re-enter Thailand. The required documents will be different depending on your passport.

TIP: There are ATMs that issue Thai baht (THB) at the entrance of the Chiang Khong Immigration Checkpoint. After you’ve left Thailand and crossed the Friendship Bridge 4 but before you are officially ‘stamped into’ Laos, there is a currency exchange booth. All border crossing fees can be paid in USD or THB. You do NOT need Laotian Kip (LAK) if you are not going further into Laos.

Laos Visa on Arrival & Arrival Card

To Enter Laos

Laos Visa on Arrival (150 countries are eligible)

  • Passport with at least 30 days validity
  • Thai Departure Card (stapled in your passport, filled out)
  • One 2.5cm x 3cm passport photo
  • Laos Visa on Arrival Application Form **
  • Laos Arrival-Departure Card (‘Arrival’ side filled out) **
  • Friendship Bridge 4 shuttle bus fee
  • Laos Visa On Arrival fee

**  Forms provided by the Huay Xai Immigration Checkpoint

Country of CitizenshipLaos Visa on Arrival Fee
Australia30 USD
Canada42 USD
China20 USD
India40 USD
Sweden31 USD
USA35 USD
UK35 USD
Others30 USD

The Huay Xai Immigration Checkpoint accepts Visa On Arrival fees paid in American dollars or Thai baht. However, it’s much better to pay in USD because the alternative fee is 1,500 THB, which is actually worth roughly 44 USD.

Laos Visa Exempt Stamp
(for all ASEAN countries plus Japan, Luxembourg, Mongolia, Russia, South Korea, Switzerland)

  • Passport with at least 30 days validity
  • Thai Departure Card (stapled in your passport, filled out)
  • Laos Arrival-Departure Card (fill out ‘Arrival’ side) **
  • Friendship Bridge 4 shuttle bus fee
  • NO FEE for a Laos Visa Exempt Stamp

** Forms provided by the Huay Xai Immigration Checkpoint

Laos Arrival-Departure Card

Laos Arrival-Departure Card

To Re-Enter Thailand

There are three visa types that you can re-enter Thailand on. Choose ONE based on your situation.

Multiple Entry Thai Visa (Tourist and Non Immigrant)

  • Unexpired Multiple Entry Thai Visa (obtained from a Royal Thai Embassy or Consulate-General)
  • Passport with 6 months validity
  • Laos Departure Card (filled out)
  • Thai Arrival-Departure Card (fill out ‘Arrival’ side) **
  • Friendship Bridge 4 shuttle bus fee
  • NO FEE for the Multiple Entry Visas

** Form provided by the Chiang Khong Immigration Checkpoint

Thai Visa on Arrival (21 countries)

  • Passport with 6 months validity
  • Laos Departure Card (filled out)
  • One 4cm x 6cm passport photo
  • Thai Visa on Arrival Application Form **
  • Thai Arrival-Departure Card (fill out ‘Arrival’ section) **
  • Proof of onward flight exiting Thailand
  • Proof of funds in a bank account (equivalent of 10,000 THB per person or 20,000 THB per family)
  • Friendship Bridge 4 shuttle bus fee
  • Thai Visa on Arrival fee of 2,000 THB cash (price as of July 2016)

** Forms provided by the Chiang Khong Immigration Checkpoint

Thai Visa Exempt Stamp (55 countries)

  • Passport with 6 months validity
  • Laos Departure Card (filled out)
  • Thai Arrival-Departure Card; fill out ‘Arrival’ section
  • Friendship Bridge 4 shuttle bus fee
  • NO FEE for Thai Visa Exempt Stamp

** Form provided by the Chiang Khong Immigration Checkpoint

Thai Arrival-Departure Card

Thai Arrival-Departure Card

How to Cross the Chiang Khong – Huay Xai Border

This border crossing is not nearly as crowded or hectic as the Nong Khai – Vientiane, Laos crossing at the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge 1. In fact, it was refreshing to see hardly anyone else there at the Chiang Khong – Huay Xai border when we went. We had a smooth experience ‘border bouncing’ from Thailand to Laos and Thailand again and it took about 1.5 hours.

STEP 1 – Exit Thailand

Enter the open-aired Chiang Khong Immigration building and walk toward the sign that says ‘Departure Passport Control’. Fill out your Thai Departure Card (it should be stapled into your passport) and stand in line at the Chiang Khong Immigration booth labeled for foreign passport holders. Hand over your passport and Thai Departure Card to the officer and get ‘stamped out’ of Thailand.

Chiang Khong Departure Passport Control

Chiang Khong Immigration CheckpointSTEP 2 – Cross the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge into Laos

Exit the immigration building. On your right-hand side, there will be a ticket window for the shuttle bus. Buy a bus ticket, board the bus, and cross the Friendship Bridge 4 into Laos.

Shuttle Bus Across Friendship Bridge 4

STEP 3 – Enter Laos on a Visa Exempt Stamp OR Visa on Arrival

If you are eligible for a Laos Visa Exempt Stamp…
get off the shuttle bus and walk straight ahead to the Huay Xai Immigration Checkpoint booths. Just before the booths, there is a table with a basket of Laos Arrival-Departure Cards. Fill out the Arrival Card side, walk to the Huay Xai Immigration booth, and get ‘stamped into’ Laos.

If you need a Laos Visa On Arrival…
get off the bus and walk slightly right toward the large blue and silver sign that says, ‘Visa On Arrival.’ Pick up a blank Laos Arrival-Departure Card and a blank Laos Visa On Arrival application form from a basket under Window 1. Fill out the forms and then stand in line at Window 1 (right side) and drop off the application requirements (listed above). Then stand in line at Window 2 (left side) and pick up your passport with your new Laos visa a few minutes later. Finally, walk through the Huay Xai Immigration Checkpoint booth and present your passport and completed Arrival Card.

Laos Visa on Arrival Counter

STEP 4 – Depart Laos

You are not required to spend any minimum amount of time in Laos. Therefore, after passing through the immigration booths to get ‘stamped into’ Laos, walk out of the building and then immediately U-turn and re-enter the building at the entrance slightly off to the right under the ‘Departure Passport Control’ sign. Fill out your Laos Departure Card and present it along with your passport to the officer in the Chiang Khong Immigration booth to get ‘stamped out of’ Laos.

STEP 5 – Cross the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge into Thailand

Exit the building and on your right-hand side there will be a ticket window for the shuttle bus. Buy a ticket, board the bus, and cross the Friendship Bridge 4 into Thailand.

STEP 6 – Enter Thailand on a Visa Exempt Stamp, Visa on Arrival, OR New Entry

If you are activating a new entry on your Multiple Entry Thai Visa (Tourist or Non Immigrant) OR are eligible for a Thai Visa Exempt Stamp…
get off the bus and head slightly to your right toward the Chiang Khong Immigration booths. Just before the booths, there is a table with a basket of Thai Arrival-Departure Cards. Fill out the Arrival Card side and walk to the Chiang Khong Immigration booth and get ‘stamped into’ Thailand.

If you need a Thai Visa On Arrival…
get off the bus and immediately walk straight ahead to the black and white ‘Visa on Arrival’ sign. Pick up a blank Thai Arrival-Departure Card and a blank Thai Visa On Arrival application form on the counter. After filling them out, stand in line at Window 1 to drop off your application requirements (listed above). Then stand in line at Window 2 and pick up your passport with your new Thai visa. Finally, walk through the Chiang Khong Immigration Checkpoint booth presenting your passport and Arrival Card.

Huay Xai Immigration Checkpoint Sunset

Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge 4 Shuttle Bus

The large, open window shuttle bus shuffles passengers back and forth between the Thai and Laos border. It departs every 10 to 15 minutes or whenever it is full. You’ll know you’re on the right bus because ‘Bokeo – Chiang Khong – Chiang Rai’ is written on the side.

Friendship Bridge 4 Shuttle Bus Prices

The fee for the bus varies by time of day. Tickets cost 20 THB per person during normal business hours (8am to 12pm, 1pm to 4:30pm) and 25 THB per person during ‘off’ hours (6:30am to 8am, 12pm to 1pm, and 4:30pm to 6pm). There is also an additional charge for baggage.

If you board the bus after 6pm, tickets are more expensive and cost 40 THB or 10,000 LAK.

If it’s very early or very late, board the bus and the driver will come around and collect the ticket money directly from you.

Convenience Fee

The Huay Xai Immigration charges a 1 USD or 40 THB or 10,000 LAK convenience fee after hours when 1) processing your Laos Visa on Arrival and 2) stamping you out of Laos. The convenience fee is applied on weekends, holidays, and between the hours of 6am to 8am and 4:30pm to 10pm.

Where to Go for the Border Run to Chiang Khong

This particular border crossing is at the Thai-Laos Friendship Bridge 4 in Chiang Rai. It’s near the northern point of Thailand about 1.5 hrs from the Golden Triangle. This bridge spans the Mekong River that separates Thailand from Laos and is roughly 10 kilometers south of the central part of Chiang Khong town.

It used to be that travelers had to take the ferry across the river to do a border run. The old immigration office is located near the heart of town, 10 kilometers north of the bridge. Although this ferry still runs today, it only services Thai and Laos citizens.

Address: Wiang, Chiang Khong District, Chiang Rai 57140 Thailand
Local Phone: (053) 791-663 or (053) 791-332 or (053) 791-330
Border Hours: 6:00am to 10:00pm every day including weekends and holidays

Getting from Chiang Mai to the Chiang Khong Land Crossing

There are a few ways to get to the Chiang Khong border crossing. Options include driving yourself, hiring a private border run van service to take you directly to the border and back to home, or taking a public transportation such as a bus to Chiang Khong and then a tuk-tuk or songthaew to the border.

Chiang Khong Immigration Checkpoint

By Car or Motorbike

We chose to rent a car and drove ourselves from Chiang Mai to Chiang Khong. It took roughly 5 hours. We parked our car in a parking lot about 50 meters or so away from the Chiang Khong Immigration Building, did our border run, and then came back to our car when we were finished.

Private Border Run Service to Chiang Khong

It is possible to use a border run service from some of the major towns in northern Thailand. A driver will typically pick you up in a van in the morning from your hotel, drive to the border, get everyone to cross into Laos and back into Thailand, and then drive back to your home in the evening. One company that offers this service is AYA Service.

Public Bus to Chiang Khong

Another option is to take a bus from your originating town’s bus station to the Chiang Khong Bus Station. From there you can take a tuk-tuk or songthaew to the Chiang Khong Immigration Office. Keep in mind that you’ll have to spend at least one night in Chiang Khong because buses only depart in the morning.

Bus Schedule: Chiang Mai to/from Chiang Khong

Bus StationDeparture TimeCost
Chiang Mai Arcade Bus Station 38am, 9:30am, 1:15pm (daily)Check prices
Chiang Khong Bus Station9:45am, 10:30am (daily)Check Prices

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares
Share This